Five automakers tell the Feds they want California emissions rules

Five automakers tell the Feds they want California emissions rules

Enlarge (credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

California’s ability to regulate its own air quality is being defended by five automakers this week. BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen Group, and Volvo have filed a motion to defend the Golden State’s waiver, issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency, that allows the state to limit the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles sold within its borders.

As a result of severe air pollution in the 1960s, then-California Governor and future Republican hero Ronald Reagan created the California Air Resources Board to set a statewide approach to managing air quality. But in recent years, the party of Reagan has been working double-time to undo the move.

Former President Donald Trump was determined to prevent CARB from regulating California’s air. In September 2019, Trump revoked California’s waiver under the clean air act, with the intention of bringing it under an Environmental Protection Agency that had been weakened by executive branch edict. Trump’s attack on California’s air was backed by automakers like Toyota and GM, who have sought to water down fuel efficiency standards.

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#bmw, #cars, #ford, #honda, #volkswagen-group, #volvo

BMW reveals its newest sport racer, the M Hybrid V8

The M Hybrid V8 is instantly recognizable as a BMW, as it wears the brand's kidney grille.

Enlarge / The M Hybrid V8 is instantly recognizable as a BMW, as it wears the brand’s kidney grille. (credit: BMW)

On Monday, BMW became the first carmaker to reveal its new hybrid racing prototype built to the new LMDh rule set. It’s called the BMW M Hybrid V8, and it will race for the first time at next January’s Rolex 24 in Daytona.

Sports car racing is in the midst of a transition period as race organizers in the US and Europe adopt new rules for prototype race cars. Because we’re talking about sports car racing, and because there are two sets of organizers, it’s all a bit complicated.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is organized by the French Automobile Club de l’Ouest, or ACO. Many of the cars that run in that race also compete in the World Endurance Championship, which is organized by the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (or FIA). In the US, there’s the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), which runs the WeatherTech championship.

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#bmw, #bmw-m-hybrid-v8, #cars, #hypercar, #imsa, #lmdh, #racing, #weathertech-sportscar-championship

BMW’s design dares to be different, and that’s OK

four generations of BMW 7 Series seen from the rear

Enlarge / There’s no mistaking the BMW XM concept as anything other than a BMW. The production version of the hybrid SUV goes on sale later this year. (credit: BMW)

If Oscar Wilde was right that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, you have to hand it to BMW’s styling. Over the years, the company’s design department in Munich has probably generated enough column inches to stretch from here to the moon, as it has challenged conventional tastes time and again with its concepts and production cars.

These days, the fuss often concerns each new interpretation of BMW’s iconic kidney grilles, and we’ve seen a few: the self-healing polymer of the iX, the wide chrome bling of the X7, and the gaping void of the M3. Before that, it was the so-called “Bangle butt”—the stepped tail at the back of the fourth-generation 7 Series named for then-head designer Chris Bangle. When the model was launched in 2001 (and for years afterward), BMW fans would recoil just at its mention; today, it has become normalized and acceptable.

But the brand’s willingness to embrace left-field ideas predates this century—how else to explain the 1989 Z1 roadster, with its removable plastic body panels and doors that dropped down into their sills?

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#adrian-van-hooydonk, #bmw, #car-design, #cars, #chris-bangle

BMW’s 2023 7 Series will come with battery-electric or V8 power

BMW styling is often divisive, and the new 7 Series will be no exception.

Enlarge / BMW styling is often divisive, and the new 7 Series will be no exception. (credit: BMW)

A few years ago, BMW told us about its electrification plans. Those plans involve an update to its cluster architecture (or CLAR) platform, which is now powertrain-agnostic thanks to a new floor design. And that means the next BMW 7 Series, due later this year, is available as a fully battery-electric vehicle, the $119,300 i7 xDrive60. There will also be a V8-powered 760i xDrive ($113,600) and a 740i ($93,300) that uses BMW’s inline six-cylinder engine, both mild hybrids, for those who aren’t ready to go EV yet.

People have been writing about divisive BMW styling for several decades now, and it’s fair to say the seventh-generation 7 Series will keep that conversation going. The squinty appearance is shared with the now-facelifted X7 SUV, although on that vehicle the effect actually improves the front’s proportions.

I also see more than a hint of Rolls-Royce Ghost—built at the same Dingolfing factory in Germany—in the 7 Series’ profile. That may be down to the car’s growth spurt: at 212.2 inches (5,390 mm) long, it has grown more than 5 inches (129 mm) compared to the car we tested in early 2017. The new 7 Series is also about 2 inches (50 mm) wider and taller than before, although the wheelbase has only grown by 0.2 inches (5 mm).

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #bmw, #bmw-7-series, #cars, #i7

The chaos of war and COVID continues to close car factories

A VW employee assembles an ID.3 electric vehicle at the VW factory in Dresden in 2021.

Enlarge / A VW employee assembles an ID.3 electric vehicle at the VW factory in Dresden in 2021. (credit: Volkswagen)

Any hopes that the auto industry’s supply chain shortages were easing up appear to be comprehensively dashed this week. In Europe, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused BMW and Volkswagen to halt production at a number of their factories. And an outbreak of COVID-19 in China has shuttered plants belonging to Toyota, VW, and now Tesla.

VW was one of the first to be affected. In late February, it announced that it was stopping production for four days at its factory in Zwickau, Germany, where the electric ID.4 crossover is built, as well as a three-day halt at another factory in Dresden.

By early March, a leaked internal memo from Porsche revealed that it, too, was affected and that production of all Porsche models would be delayed as a consequence.

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#auto-industry, #bmw, #cars, #chip-shortage, #ford, #mini, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine, #tesla, #toyota, #vw

Carmakers shut factories and freeze sales as invasion fallout spreads

Carmakers shut factories and freeze sales as invasion fallout spreads

Enlarge (credit: Monty Rakusen | Getty Images)

Ten major car and motorcycle groups announced factory closures or froze sales to Russia as the industrial fallout from the country’s invasion of Ukraine spread on Wednesday.

Porsche and BMW became the latest carmakers to shut European plants because of a lack of parts from Ukraine, while Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai, which is one of the largest brands in Russia, said they would cease manufacturing in the country. Ford, Renault and BMW have already closed Russian plants.

In addition, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Honda, Bentley, Aston Martin, Harley-Davidson, and Rolls-Royce all froze sales to Russia, joining a growing list that encompasses brands from Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover to Volkswagen.

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#automakers, #bmw, #cars, #porsche, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine, #supply-chain, #ukraine

Sportscar racing gets a bit less complicated—the end of GTLM

A pack of GT cars at the beginning of the 2021 12 Hours of Sebring. If you needed proof of sportscar racing being too complicated for the casual fan, consider the fact that the white #79 Porsche 911 RSR is actually radically different from the blue #16 Porsche 911 GT3 R right next to it. From next year, that confusion will be lessened.

Enlarge / A pack of GT cars at the beginning of the 2021 12 Hours of Sebring. If you needed proof of sportscar racing being too complicated for the casual fan, consider the fact that the white #79 Porsche 911 RSR is actually radically different from the blue #16 Porsche 911 GT3 R right next to it. From next year, that confusion will be lessened. (credit: Porsche)

On Saturday, the North American sports car season draws to a close with the Petit Le Mans. A 10-hour race held at Road Atlanta in Georgia, this year’s Petit Le Mans is also the last race for a fan-favorite class of cars. Known as GTLM, this category was for Le Mans-legal versions of two-door production cars, over the years a playground for manufacturer-supported programs and some of the world’s best racing drivers.

On the one hand, it’s a massive step for the US side of endurance racing—the end of one direct link that the Weathertech Sportscar Championship has with annual 24 Hours of Le Mans. But it also reduces some needless complication for the sport.

“Even for some of the most avid car people, they have a hard time understanding why the red BMW is so much faster than the yellow and blue one; or the red, white, and blue Porsche is so much faster than the #9 car or the #16 or the #88,” said John Doonan, president of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), the sport’s organizer.

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#bmw, #cars, #corvette-racing, #endurance-racing, #ferrari, #imsa, #petit-le-mans, #porsche, #racing, #sportscar-racing, #weathertech-sportscar-championship

The BMW M5 CS is seriously potent, seriously expensive

The first BMW M5 to ever receive the CS treatment is a seriously potent sports sedan, but that performance comes with some notable compromises.

Enlarge / The first BMW M5 to ever receive the CS treatment is a seriously potent sports sedan, but that performance comes with some notable compromises. (credit: Bradley Iger)

Although today’s M5 is a far cry from the hot-rodded E28 that BMW introduced in 1984, the company has followed a common ethos with the badge throughout the decades. While other M cars like the M1 and M3 have had clear sports car intentions, the M5 has always made more sense as a posh Autobahn missile.

Over time, as the 5-Series has increased in size, weight, and amenities, BMW has leaned further and further into that notion, piling on power and comfort in nearly equal measure with each passing generation. Outfitted with a twin-turbocharged V8, all-wheel drive, and a traditional eight-speed automatic rather than a manual gearbox or a dual-clutch transmission, the current M5 is incredibly capable but also unapologetically civil. Your grandmother could take one to the grocery store and back without incident.

Well, unless it’s an M5 CS. As with the M4 CS and M2 CS that came before it, the M5 Competition Sport package is the swan song for the current-generation car, which brings a significantly stronger focus on outright performance. The result is a sedan that can generate Nürburgring Nordschleife lap times that put sports cars like the latest Corvette or 911 Carrera S in its rear-view mirror.

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#bmw, #bmw-m5, #bmw-m5-competition-sport, #car-review, #cars

On the eve of No Time to Die, a look at Bond cars past and present

The sports car is as intrinsic to 007’s character as a vodka martini or that license to kill. At the start, long before James Bond went from page to screen, he drove a Blower Bentley, the equivalent in 1953 of tooling about today in a Toyota GT-One. The move to motion pictures meant driving something a bit more current than a 1931 Le Mans racer, and over the course of 25 films there’s been plenty of four-wheel action. But one car stands out above all the others—the Aston Martin DB5.

We first saw the ionic coupé in 1964’s Goldfinger, where it almost stole the show with its battering ram, ejector seat, smoke screen, and the rest of the gadgets that introduced the world to the Bond car. It has appeared in eight films in total. After Goldfinger it returned in Thunderball, then sat out the Lazenby and Moore years before returning in GoldenEye and then Tomorrow Never Dies, despite a marketing deal that meant Q had to issue the secret agent BMWs instead.

Casino Royale offered a new origin story for the DB5, with Bond winning the car in a game of poker. However, when it shows up again in Skyfall six years later, the steering wheel has switched sides, and Q Branch has had some fun with it. When last we saw 007 in Spectre he was driving away in BMT 216A, and we’ve known since the first trailer for No Time to Die that the DB5—and its headlamp miniguns—plays an important role in No Time to Die.

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#lotus, #amc, #aston-martin, #bmw, #cars, #citroen, #ford, #gaming-culture, #jagusr, #james-bond, #no-time-to-die

Forget the looks, love the tech: The $83,200 BMW iX electric SUV

A white BMW iX

Enlarge / The $83,500 BMW iX is the brand’s new technology flagship. It’s a battery electric SUV with a range of more than 300 miles. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

MUNICH—Regular readers of Ars will know that we make no bones about our love for the BMW i3. BMW’s third-generation electric car taught the automaker plenty about EV powertrains as well as more sustainable manufacturing. But the i3 has taught BMW all it could, and now the time has come to apply those lessons to more mainstream EVs. And nothing is more mainstream these days than an SUV, so BMW has developed an all-new one to showcase the company’s fifth-generation electric powertrain.

Enter the 2022 BMW iX.

Trickle-down might be a myth in economics, but the principle does work in the auto industry. Car makers develop new technology and launch it in their high-end vehicles first before economies of scale see such features show up in cheaper models. This is particularly true of the German luxury brands like BMW, which in the past used its 7 Series flagship sedan as its standard-bearer, introducing things like the first true infotainment system. But big sedan have fallen out of favor with the people who buy big luxury cars, and so the time has come for the flagship SUV instead.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #bmw, #bmw-ix, #car-review, #cars, #features

The Station: Apple car shakeup, how Sept. 11 changed travel, and a pledge from airlines

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hi readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

Twenty years and one week ago, I was riding the monorail system at the Newark airport and pointed to the twin skyscrapers looming in the distance. “I can’t believe you’ve never been to the top of the World Trade Center,” I said to my then fiancé and now husband. Days later, I would walk into a restaurant in a Slovenian town and see a report on the TV about a plane crashing into one of those towers. Like so many of us, we spent the rest of that day watching the news and wondering what would happen next.

In all, four aircraft were hijacked the morning of September 11, two of which crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and the fourth in a field in Pennsylvania. In all, 2,996 people were killed.

The September 11 terrorist attacks triggered a series of events that would change the world forever, including how we move about it. My September 6, 2001 flight to Newark and then onto to Europe was the last time I would experience what now seems unimaginable: getting to an airport less than 45 minutes before my plane took off.

My trip home from Europe provided a forecast of what air travel would look and feel like, although some measures like when we were separately interviewed two different times prior to boarding, ended up being temporary.

Within months of my arrival home, passenger screening and security at airports would be handled by a new federal agency called the Transportation Security Administration. Security wasn’t the only aspect of air travel that changed.

The airline industry experienced skyrocketing losses that sparked a wave of cost-cutting, new fees for travelers and consolidation. According to the GAO, the U.S. airline industry lost $23 billion between 2001 and 2003 and some of the nation’s biggest airlines including USAir and United Airlines filed for bankruptcy.

The airline industry would suffer financial losses during the Great Recession of 2008, causing more bankruptcies and consolidation. Today, most domestic flights are controlled by four airlines: American, Delta, Southwest and United.

After recovering and stringing together a few years of profitability, the airline industry (and how we travel) would get hit again: this time from the COVID-19 pandemic.

p.s. Thanks to co-worker and cybersecurity editor Zack Whittaker for the photo (featured as the main image for the post) he snapped yesterday.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

We’ve talked before about the possibilities of shared micromobility to help cities create more equitable and accessible transit ecosystems. Shared operators have expanded this idea to support activism.

Agencies and operators provided free or discounted trips for demonstrators to get to events, according to the North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association’s 2020 report on the state of the shared micromobility industry, Many even donated or fundraised for racial justice nonprofits.

Not only are they aiding the fight on the ground, the report also shows that nearly three-quarters of all operators stated that diversity was a part of every hiring decision, and 69 percent reported that women and POC are represented at all levels of the organization.

Operator update

Lime is back in Oakland with 500 scooters and plans to scale up to 1,000 over the coming weeks. The company pulled out of the city last year during the pandemic. This time, it’s focusing on “Communities of Concern” as designated by the city, and will deploy half its fleet to these neighborhoods that have been traditionally underserved by transportation.

Tier is hooking up with Irish computer vision startup Luna. Tier is adding Luna’s cameras and smart city technology to its shared e-scooter fleets across Europe and the Middle East. To handle the increase in work, Luna is hiring 15 new staffers to cover computer vision/AI, hardware, IoT and project management roles in Ireland. Interestingly, the partnership comes from an Ireland trade mission to Germany to better understand how the two countries could work together within the e-mobility and automotive industry. Luna just recently launched a pilot with Voi in England, and Ford-backed micromobility operator Spin is slowly pushing out Drover AI’s similar tech on scooters in the United States.

Speaking of Voi, the Swedish company is working with the UK government’s Kickstart Scheme to help create jobs for people ages 16 to 24 years old on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment. Voi is recruiting 25 young people across the country to work as Warehouse Operatives and Fleet Specialists. The young ones will be ensured a job for at least six months and will hopefully learn a thing or two about a growing transport industry.

Bird has tweaked its branding. It recently announced its scooters and bikes will now be made in “Electric Sky” blue, as opposed to its black, white and silver color scheme. The color evokes eco-friendly transportation, clear skies and cheerful days. It’s reminiscent of Revel’s blue mopeds and Swapfiets’ bikes.

Taking liberties with the term “micromobility”

Chinese EV maker Xpeng says it’s going to make a robot unicorn for children to ride. The quadruped will navigate multiple types of terrain, recognize objects and provide “emotional interaction.” The robot pulls from Xpeng’s experiences with AI and automated driving development. The rendering looks cute and soft, for a metal beast, but the horn could be a bit longer IMO. Bonus: it’s not creepy-looking like Xiaomi’s robot dog.

Dutch startup Squad Mobility has introduced details for its small, low-cost electric city car that’s equipped with solar panels which drip feed the battery throughout the day. The company hopes to come out with a prototype for the solar-assisted quadricycle by October this year and begin deliveries by the end of next year. While it would be a fun passenger vehicle for city folks, the end game is to get in good with one of the car-sharing or shared micromobility operators and sell fleets of the Squad car for shared use.

At the Munich Motor Show, BMW revealed a couple of electric bike concepts that look pretty wicked. The Motorrad Vision AMBY looks like a motorcycle, but is probably more along the class of off-road motorbike, complete with fat tires and a seat-to-footrest ratio that brings to mind all the shredding that can be had. The i Vision AMBY is more of a traditional road e-bike, but maybe one that’s inspired by Back to the Future, such is its retrofuturistic vibe and, I’ll say it, postal service-beige frame.

ADAS in scooters

The desire to keep shared electric scooters off sidewalks has driven the development of advanced technology in the micromobility industry. Once the province of geofencing, scooter companies are so eager to get a leg up on the competition that they’re now implementing technology similar to advanced driver assistance systems usually found in cars. Check out my story in Extra Crunch that digs into this trend.

Micromobility America event

The folks who write our other favorite micromobility newsletter are going to be hosting a micromobility event in the SF Bay Area. On September 23, a range of experts, founders, investors and builders will be sharing top insights about the world of lightweight electric vehicles and their potential to disrupt transportation, including:
Brazilian racing driver Lucas Di Grassi, American entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, senior writer at Wired Lauren Goode, analyst and founder of the term “micromobility” Horace Dediu

Register now, if you still can. Space is limited.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Investors continue to sink money into ride-hailing companies. Cao Cao Mobility, the ride-hailing unit of Chinese automaker Geely Automobile Holdings, is the latest example.

The company raised $589 million (RMB 3.8 billion) in a Series B round led by Suzhou Xiangcheng Financial Holding Group, an investment company backed by the Xiangcheng district government of Suzhou. Suzhou High-Speed Rail New City Group and three other state-controlled enterprises also participated.

The raise brings the company’s total funding to around $773.2 million (RMB 5 billion).

As TechCrunch reporter Rebecca Bellan notes, Cao Cao is positioned for further growth and a larger market share, as long as the Chinese government believes the company is operating fairly. Its competitors Didi Global and Amap have come under increased government scrutiny that has hurt their business, while giving Cao Cao a boost.

A cybersecurity investigation prompted the Chinese government to temporarily remove Didi Global from Chinese app stores. As a result, Cao Cao, which is currently available in 62 cities in China, saw ride volume increase 32% in July.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Accure, the Aachen, Germany-based battery safety software company raised $8 million in a Series A round led by Blue Bear Capital. Capnamic Ventures and 42CAP also participated.

BP Ventures, the investing arm of oil and gas giant BP, made a €10 million ($11.9 million) investment in Ryd, a German in-car digital payments provider. The funds will be used to help Ryd expand its service into international markets and build out its offering.

Delhivery, the Indian logistics firm, courted Lee Fixel’s Addition as an investor before its expected IPO in the next two quarters: The Gurgaon-headquartered firm disclosed in a regulatory filing that Addition invested $76.4 million in the startup as part of a Series I round. Delihivery hasn’t disclosed the total raise or other investors.

Delimobil, the Russian car sharing company, has chosen banks to organize its IPO listing and is seeking to raise around $ 350 million, Reuters reported.

Skydweller Aero, the U.S.-Spanish aerospace startup, received an additional $8 million in oversubscribed funding led by Leonardo S.p.A, Marlinspike Capital and Advection Growth Capital. The funds were added to its Series A round, which had previously reached $32 million. The company said it has also partnered with Palantir Technologies to use its Foundry analytics platform to process information at-scale and onboard the aircraft designed for telecommunications, government operations and emergency services.

Tritium Holdings, the Australian developer of DC fast-charging technology for electric vehicles, raised A$40 million  ($29.4 million) from the investment arm of Cigna.

WattE, a company trying to develop a network of truck stops and run a fleet of 12,000 electric trucks to share, will receive a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission. The grant is for the construction of the state’s first electric truck stop. The company also recently closed a $6 million Series A round led by Canon Equity.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

I hear things. But I’m not selfish. Let me share what the little birds are telling me.

You likely spotted the widespread coverage, including by TechCrunch, that Ford Motor hired Doug Field, the engineering executive who was VP of Apple’s special projects team and its secret, not-very-secret car program.

Field, who also once worked as senior vice president of engineering at Tesla, was named as Ford’s chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer. Soon after the news broke, reports came out that Kevin Lynch, who led development on the Apple Watch, had taken over Field’s role on the car project.

All of this had TC readers wondering (at least according to my DMs and emails) whether Apple’s car program was at risk. I reached out to some folks and one source told me that Apple employees were in Korea meeting with battery manufacturers as early as last week, which suggests that the game is on. You might recall, The Korea Times reported back in early August a team from Apple was visiting battery manufacturers LG Chem, SK, and Hanwha as part of “early talks.”

It seems those talks are still happening.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome back to policy corner! Big news out of the aviation industry this week, as major airlines pledged to make 3 billion gallons of “sustainable aviation fuel” available to aircraft carriers by 2030, in line with a federal goal of reducing aviation emissions by 20% by the start of the next decade.

The announcement was made by industry group Airlines for America (A4A), whose members include United Airlines, Delta, American Airlines and Southwest. The group had previously set a target of 2 billion gallons by 2030 back in March. (Also yesterday, United made a separate announcement that it would purchase 1.5 billion gallons of SAF from startup Alder Fuels, pending certain conditions are met. Check out my story on the deal here.

A4A stressed the importance of federal action to support the development of SAF, including a “blender” tax credit for SAF mixed with conventional fuel and public-private research partnerships into SAF tech.

But this would be just the beginning, if President Joe Biden has his say; his administration wants a “fully zero-carbon aviation sector by 2050,” according to a White House fact sheet released Thursday. Aviation accounts for 11% of the country’s transportation-related emissions, the fact sheet says. Plus, while 3 billion gallons of fuel certainly sounds like a lot, a United spokesperson told TechCrunch that the airline consumes around 4 billion annually, and the White House says demand overall could be as high as 35 billion gallons per year by 2050.

To meet that demand, Biden said he is seeking that SAF incentives be included in the $3.5 trillion spending bill currently being debated by Congress, including a tax credit and $4.3 billion earmarked for funding SAF projects.

It’s important to note two things: one, as it currently stands, SAF is more expensive than conventional jet fuel, itself a considerable cost for airlines. Two, the above goals on behalf of the airlines are non-binding, voluntary agreements. Taken together, that means (in my humble opinion) that a tax incentive or something like it will be necessary for SAF to achieve cost parity with conventional fuel — and for airlines to actually adopt it.


The other policy items that caught my eye this week come from the great state of New York. The first is out of New York City, which set a target to install 40,000 public Level 2 chargers and 6,000 DC fast chargers by 2030. This buildout, outlined in the Department of Transportation’s EV plan, will be necessary for the city to reach its target of being fully carbon neutral by 2050.

Finally, the New York State House signed a bill into law requiring all passenger vehicles sold in-state to be zero-emission by 2035, making it the second state (after California) to introduce a set deadline to phase out internal combustion engine cars. It’s hard to know whether this is the start of a sea change in state policy or whether NY and California are anomalies, but I can see this type of legislation becoming more popular in the coming years.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Anthony Levandowski, the controversial and presidentially pardoned autonomous vehicle technology engineer, sat down with The Information for an interview that included details about his company’s pivot from big rigs to dump trucks.

Aurora co-founder Sterling Anderson laid out the autonomous vehicle company’s development process in a blog post this week. Aurora collaborated with half a dozen OEMs and has integrated its self-driving system into eight distinct vehicle platforms. Anderson wrote that the outcome “is a highly refined Driver-vehicle interface and a structured process for the design, development, and launch of vehicles designed for it that we call the Aurora Driver Development Program.” Side note: Aurora has made its Pittsburgh office its official headquarters.

Intel subsidiary Mobileye and rental car giant Sixt SE announced plans to launch a robotaxi service in Munich next year. As I noted in my article, the robotaxi service will leverage all of Intel’s, and more specifically Mobileye’s, assets that have been in development or purchased in recent years, including the $900 million acquisition in 2020 of Moovit, an Israeli startup that analyzes urban traffic patterns and provides transportation recommendations with a focus on public transit.

Through the partnership, riders will be able to access the robotaxi service via the Moovit app. The service will also be offered through Sixt’s mobility ONE app, which gives customers the ability to hail a ride, rent, share or subscribe to vehicles. Caveat: this won’t be a large-scale service in the beginning; it will start small and operate similarly to other early rider programs first modeled by nuTonomy and Waymo.

WeRide, a Chinese autonomous vehicle technology company, unveiled its first cargo van. The company said it will work with Chinese automobile manufacturer Jiangling Motors and Chinese express delivery company ZTO Express to commercialize its first self-driving van at scale. The “robovans” will be based on JMC’s battery electric vehicle model with a fully redundant vehicle platform, combined with WeRide’s full-stack software and hardware autonomous driving (AD) solutions.

Electric vehicles (and batteries)

GM extended a shutdown at its Orion Assembly Plant by another two weeks due to a battery pack shortage related to the widespread Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV safety recall. GM said the extended downtime at the Orion plant will last through September 20. Orion Assembly Plant in Michigan has been shut down since August 23.

Ford has hired six senior-level executives to its newly minted commercial vehicles and services business unit as the automaker prepares to bring to market the E-Transit cargo van and the F-150 Lightning Pro pickup truck — two electric vehicles it’s betting will become commercial customers’ new workhorses.

Sila Nanotechnologies’ next-generation battery technology made its commercial product debut in the new Whoop fitness tracker, a milestone that caps a decade of research and development by the Silicon Valley startup. This matters because Sila Nano has joint battery ventures with BMW and Daimler to produce batteries containing the company’s silicon-anode technology, with the goal of going to market in the automotive industry by 2025.

Solid Power, a battery developer backed by Ford and BMW, is preparing to start pilot production of its solid state batteries early next year. A new production facility will be dedicated to manufacturing a sulfide-based solid electrolyte material and pilot production of its commercial-grade, 100 ampere battery cells. Those pouch cells are expected to go to Ford and BMW for automotive testing in early 2022.

Meet Squad Mobility and learn about its vision of the perfect urban vehicle. Here’s a hint: it’s small, cheap, electric and includes solar.

Tesla set the official record for electric vehicles at Nürburgring with a Tesla “Model S Plaid,” that driven by Andreas Simonsen circumnavigated the 20.8-kilometre. (12.9-mile) Nordschleife loop in 7:35.579, according to a statement from the motorsports complex.

Toyota Motor said it will oppose a proposal by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to give union-made electric vehicles in the United States an additional $4,500 tax incentive, Reuters reported. The company said the proposal discriminates “against American autoworkers based on their choice not to unionize.”

Volta Trucks, a full-electric commercial vehicle manufacturer, said its first vehicles will be manufactured in Steyr, Austria, by Steyr Automotive, formerly MAN Truck and Bus Austria.

Delivery and sharing

DoorDash, Caviar, Grubhub, Seamless, Postmates and Uber Eats have sued the City of New York over a law that would permanently limit the amount of commissions the apps can charge restaurants to use their services. The companies are seeking an injunction that would prevent the city from enforcing the legislation, unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Plentywaka co-founder and CEO Onyeka Akumah was interviewed by TechCrunch as part of its ongoing founders Q&A series.

Misc. stuff

Hyundai Motor Group laid out its hydrogen strategy, announcing it will provide hydrogen fuel cell versions for all its commercial vehicles by 2028. Hyundai’s goal is to achieve cost competitiveness comparable to that of EV batteries by 2030. The company also shared details about its high-performance, rear-wheel drive hydrogen sports car, the Vision FK, with a targeted range of 373 miles. Hyundai did not share when the vehicle would go into production.

GM unveiled the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado, a full-sized pickup truck that received a major technology upgrade, including its hands-free Super Cruise advanced driver assistance system and an infotainment system with embedded Google services, as well as an overhauled interior.

David Zipper wrote a piece for Slate examining the growing problem of infotainment systems.

#airlines, #anthony-levandowski, #apple, #apple-car, #automotive, #bmw, #cao-cao-mobility, #caviar, #delta-airlines, #doordash, #ford, #grubhub, #intel, #mobileye, #postmates, #seamless, #tesla, #transportation, #united-airlines

Solid Power expands production capacity to deliver test batteries to BMW, Ford in 2022

Solid Power, a battery developer backed by Ford and BMW, is expanding its Colorado-based factory footprint as it prepares pilot production of its solid state batteries early next year.

The new production facility will be dedicated to manufacturing one of the company’s flagship products, a sulfide-based solid electrolyte material, by up to 25 times its current output. The new facility will also make room for the first pilot production line of its commercial-grade, 100 ampere battery cells. Those pouch cells are expected to go to Ford and BMW for automotive testing in early 2022, with the aim of getting them into driver-ready vehicles by the latter half of the decade.

Solid state batteries have long been considered the next breakthrough in battery technology. They lack a liquid electrolyte, the material that moves ions between the cathode and anode in traditional lithium-ion batteries, as TechCrunch writer Mark Harris has explained. The gains from such technology, SSB developers say, include increased energy density, reduced costs and a superior battery life expectancy.

Developers also say they’re safer – an important consideration in light of incidents like GM’s three-times recall of Chevrolet Bolt vehicles due to fire risk. It’s the liquid electrolyte that serves as “the spark that leads to thermal runaway,” Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell told TechCrunch. “We believe very strongly that these issues that both Hyundai and GM are now facing would be addressed with a solid-state battery.”

While the startup will be building out a new battery cell pilot production line, Solid Power’s ultimate plan is to eventually only produce the electrolyte material and license out the cell to OEMs and battery manufacturers.

“Long term, we’re a materials company,” Campbell said. “We want to be the industry leader in solid electrolyte materials.” To that end, this current expansion to cell production will likely be the company’s last, he said. The forthcoming pilot production line will produce enough to supply multiple OEMs with cells for automotive qualification testing, with the intent of larger production scales being undertaken by automakers and battery cell producers.

The decision to license the battery cells to partners, rather than produce them all in-house, is an asset-light model born from commonsense, he added.

“Let’s face it, what’s the probability that little Solid Power is going to grow up and displace the likes of Panasonic, LG, CATL?” While some companies are attempting it, like Sweden’s Northvolt, Campbell added that the material business margins are higher and don’t include direct competitors that are all but behemoths. “It’s capital-light, but it’s also realistic.”

The startup said in June it would go public via a $1.2 billion reverse merger with blank-check firm Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp. III. The transaction, which is anticipated to generate around $600 million in cash, should give the company enough funds through 2026 or 2027, Campbell said.

The company will need plenty of capital to take it through the rest of the decade, especially as it aims to produce enough electrolyte material to support 10 gigawatt-hour annual cell capacity by 2207. For that, it’ll need “orders of magnitude” more electrolyte production capacity than was even announced today (which is itself an order of magnitude increase), Campbell said.

Solid Power doesn’t even plan on stopping at electrolyte production. Campbell hinted that the company is also at work developing a low-cost cathode material – one that contains no nickel or cobalt, two of the costliest raw battery materials.

“[The industry] is going to be dominated by the cost of materials and the cost of materials is going to be dominated by the cost of that nickel- and cobalt-containing cathode material,” he said. “This particular chemistry that we’ll be disclosing later this year is extremely low cost, we’re talking 1/20th, 1/30th the cost of today’s [nickel manganese cobalt cathodes].”

#automotive, #bmw, #electric-vehicle-batteries, #electric-vehicles, #ford, #solid-power, #solid-state-batteries, #transportation

BMW’s i Vision Circular concept thinks about sustainable car-making

MUNICH, GERMANY—The BMW i Vision Circular is not the company’s new Neue Klasse. But the new concept, revealed this morning at IAA Mobility, explores idea which the company says will inform that electric vehicle, due in 2025.

Not so much in the way it looks, which is a shame since this compact one-box shape—described by a fellow journalist as a Cyber Twingo—is a refreshing break from oversized SUVs. Instead, it’s the car’s approach to sustainability that BMW is running with—”Circular” refers to the car’s lifecycle, which aims to use entirely recycled materials resulting in a vehicle that is entirely recyclable too. Currently, BMW says that across its brands (which include Mini and Rolls-Royce), it’s already at 30 percent recycled and reused materials.

“The BMW i Vision Circular illustrates our all-encompassing, meticulous way of thinking when it comes to sustainable mobility. It symbolises our ambition to be a pioneering force in the development of a circular economy,” said BMW Chairman Oliver Zipse. “We lead the way for resource efficiency in production and we are seeking to extend this status to all stages of the vehicle life cycle. This is a question of economic sustainability too, as the current trend in commodity prices clearly shows the financial consequences in store for any industry that is reliant on finite resources.”

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#bmw, #bmw-i-vision-circular, #cars, #concept-car, #iaa-mobility

The 2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e—a big battery gives this hybrid a useful range

It’s been a while since we spent time with BMW’s plug-in hybrid X5. Since then, the German automaker replaced the X5 with an all-new model called the X5 xDrive45e. The brand has returned to its iconic inline six-cylinder engine configuration under the hood and has doubled the traction battery in capacity, usefully boosting the SUV’s electric-only range.

Styling-wise, the X5 xDrive45e is similar to its non-hybrid sibling. It’s a big vehicle that looks particularly tall on the road. I think it lacks the handsomeness of the original X5, but the Internet already has enough takes on BMW styling and doesn’t need another one from me.

On the inside, all the materials you sit on or touch feel high-quality, and the driver’s seat has good forward and rear visibility. However, I felt a little like I was sitting on the car (in an overstuffed armchair) rather than in it. Ahead of the driver is a thick-rimmed multifunction steering wheel and a 12.3-inch digital main instrument display.

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#bmw, #bmw-x5, #bmw-x5-xdrive45e, #car-review, #cars, #hybrid, #phev, #plug-in, #plug-in-hybrid-ev

Automakers urge greater government investment to meet Biden’s EV sales target

President Joe Biden is expected to set an ambitious new target for half of all new auto sales in the U.S. to be low- or zero-emission by 2030, a plan that has received tentative support from the Big Three automakers pending what they say will require hefty government support.

General Motors, Ford and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) issued a joint statement Thursday that they had “shared aspiration[s]” to achieve a 40% to 50% share of electric in new vehicle sales by the end of the decade, with the caveat that such a target “can be achieved only with the timely deployment of the full suite of electrification policies committed to by the Administration in the Build Back Better Plan.”

Some of the investments they list include consumer incentives, a national EV charging network “of sufficient density,” funding for R&D and manufacturing and supply chain incentives.

Biden’s target, which will come in the form of an executive order on Thursday, will be nonbinding and entirely voluntary. The target includes vehicles powered by batteries, hydrogen fuel cells or plug-in hybrids.

Executives from the three OEMs, as well as representatives from the United Automobile Workers union, are expected to attend an event on the new target at the White House Thursday. Tesla, it seems, was not invited, according to a tweet from CEO Elon Musk.

Biden will also be calling for new fuel economy standards for passenger and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles through model year 2026, which were rolled back under President Trump’s tenure, according to a White House factsheet released Thursday. The new standards, which will be crafted under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, should come as no surprise to automakers: They were included in Biden’s so-called “Day One Agenda” and mark a cornerstone of his strategy to combat climate change.

The new standards will likely borrow from those passed by California last year, which were finalized in concert with a coalition of five automakers: BMW AG, Ford, Honda Motor Co., Volkswagen AG, and Volvo AB. Those automakers, in a separate statement Thursday, said they supported the White House’s plan to reduce emissions. However, like the Big Three, they said that “bold action” from the federal government will be needed to achieve emission reductions targets.

The road to 2030

While Biden’s nonbinding order is more of a symbolic one, the targets are likely achievable, Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights said in a statement. She added that automotive industry leaders “have seen the writing on the wall for some time now” regarding electrification, regardless of who has been in the White House.

Thanks to the relatively long product development lead time, many of the major automakers have already announced multibillion-dollar investments in EVs and AVs at least through the middle of the decade. That includes a $35 billion investment through 2025 from GM and $30 billion through the same year from Ford — not to mention similar announcements from Stellantis and many billions earmarked for battery R&D from Volkswagen, and even Volvo Cars’ shift to all-electric by 2030.

These massive numbers follow the automakers’ own sales targets, which are for the most part in line with Biden’s goal.

Fuel economy rules, however, have historically garnered slightly more mixed reactions from automakers. GM, Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis) and Toyota had previously supported a Trump-era lawsuit that sought to strip California’s authority to set its own emissions standards — but each company eventually made an about-face, leaving the road open for Biden to introduce his own standards this year.

In a very real sense, Biden’s announcement is as much about geopolitics as it is about climate change. He, too, has seen the writing on the wall regarding EVs. His administration notes in the factsheet that “China is increasingly cornering the global supply chain” for EVs and EV battery materials. “By setting clear targets for electric vehicle sale trajectories, these countries are becoming magnets for private investment into their manufacturing sectors — from parts and materials to final assembly.”

While three times as many EVs were registered in the U.S. in 2020 versus 2016, America still lags behind both Europe and China in terms of EV market share, according to the International Energy Agency.

The news has garnered a slew of mixed reactions, with some environmental groups urging more decisive action on the part of the administration. Carol Lee Rawn, senior director of transportation at Ceres, said in a statement that future standards should target a 60% reduction in emissions and a “clear trajectory” to 100% vehicle sales by 2035.

Although the UAW will be joining Biden at the White House on Thursday, President Ray Curry said in a statement that the group is “not focused on hard deadlines or percentages, but on preserving the wages and benefits that have been the heart and soul of the American middle class.”

#automotive, #bmw, #donald-trump, #electric-vehicles, #fiat-chrysler, #ford, #general-motors, #joe-biden, #policy, #stellantis, #transportation, #volkswagen, #volvo-cars

What is LMDh and why are we so excited about sports car racing in 2023?

A sketch of the Porsche LMDh race car

Enlarge / This sketch is all we’ve seen of Porsche’s forthcoming LMDh hybrid racer. But now we know that when it starts racing in 2023, it will be run by Team Penske. (credit: Porsche)

In 2021, there is a real buzz building in the world of sports car racing. After many years of running incompatible technical regulations, the three organizations that are in charge of endurance racing in the US, France, and the rest of the world have managed to find common ground. Soon, a car that’s able to compete for the overall win at Le Mans will also be eligible to do the same at Sebring or Daytona, and vice-versa.

This convergence was meant to stimulate interest and draw in new entries, and it’s doing just that: Acura, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Glickenhaus, Peugeot, and Toyota have all confirmed programs. Entries are also expected from Cadillac, Hyundai, and Lamborghini. That level of manufacturer involvement hasn’t been seen since the glory days of Group C, and it’s fair to say the increasing field of competitors has fans excited at the prospect.

But sports car racing—which often involves multiple classes of cars racing at the same time—is nothing if not overly complicated. The news is good, but bear with us as we explain what’s going on.

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#aco, #acura, #audi, #bmw, #cadillac, #cars, #daytona, #dpi, #dpi-2-0, #endurance-racing, #features, #ferrari, #fia, #glickenhaus, #hybrid, #hypercar, #imsa, #le-mans, #le-mans-hypercar, #lmdh, #lmp1, #peugeot, #porsche, #racing, #sebring, #sportscar-racing, #toyota

Automakers have battery anxiety, so they’re taking control of the supply

Battery joint ventures have become the hot must-have deal for automakers that have set ambitious targets to deliver millions of electric vehicles in the next few years.

It’s no longer just about securing a supply of cells. The string of partnerships and joint ventures show that automakers are taking a more active role in the development and even production of battery cells, .

Automakers are taking a more active role in the development and even production of battery cells.

And the deals don’t appear to be slowing down. Just this week, Mercedes-Benz announced its $47 billion plan to become an electric-only automaker by 2030. Securing its battery supply chain by expanding existing partnerships or locking in new ones to jointly develop and produce battery cells and modules is a critical piece of its plan.

Mercedes, like other automakers, is also focused on developing and deploying advanced battery technology. In addition to setting up eight new battery plants to supply its future EVs, the German automaker said it was partnering with Sila Nano, the Silicon Valley battery chemistry startup that it has previously invested in, to increase energy density, which should in turn improve range and allow for shorter charging times.

“This follows a trend that we’ve seen of automakers realizing how critical the battery is and taking more control of the production of the cells in order to ensure their own supply,” Sila Nano CEO Gene Berdichevsky said in a recent interview. “Like if you’re VW, and you say, ‘We’re going to go 50% electric by whatever year,’ but then the batteries don’t show up, you’re bankrupt, you’re dead. Their scale is so big that even if their cell partners have promised them to deliver, automakers are scared that they won’t.”

Tesla, BMW and Volkswagen were early adopters of the battery joint-venture strategy. In 2014,Tesla and Panasonic signed an agreement to build a large battery manufacturing plant, or a gigafactory as everyone is now calling it, in the U.S. and have worked together since. BMW began working with Solid Power in 2017 to create solid-state batteries for high-performance EVs that could potentially lower costs by requiring less safety features than lithium-ion batteries.

In addition to its partnership with Northvolt, VW is also in talks with suppliers to secure more direct access to supplies like semiconductors and lithium so it can keep its existing plants running at full speed.

Now the rest of the industry is moving to work with battery companies, to share knowledge and resources and essentially become the manufacturer.

#automotive, #basf, #bmw, #ec-mobility-hardware, #electric-vehicle, #ford, #general-motors, #greentech, #hyundai, #lg-chem, #lithium-ion-battery, #panasonic, #porsche, #renault, #sk-innovation, #solidenergy-systems, #tc, #tesla, #toyota, #transportation, #volkswagen

BMW abandons the i3, the car that could have birthed a bright electric future

The BMW i3 has reached the end of the line. Two weeks ago, BMW confirmed that this is the last month the company will be making its quirky and often misunderstood electric vehicle for US customers. In doing so, the automaker acknowledged what many EV owners, enthusiasts, and observers have long believed: the company, which was once lauded as a leader in electrification, has squandered the last eight years.

I don’t say this lightly or without experience—I owned a 2014 BMW i3 for nearly five years. It was my first electric vehicle, and I loved it. Sometimes, I wish I hadn’t sold it. Other times, I’m glad I did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was unique and fun to drive, and it felt years ahead of its time.

The i3 was a polarizing car. Its upright, narrow body rolled on skinny tires, and its layered design was loved or loathed, depending on the customer. But no matter how you feel about the i3, it was a car made by a company with a clear vision of the future, pursued with tenacity and purpose. BMW pitched the i3 as the foundation of an entirely new line, and BMW could have seriously iterated on the design. There was talk in the early days of how easy it would be to simply drop a new carbon-fiber reinforced plastic body onto the brilliantly engineered aluminum chassis, creating a suite of models that would explore a wide range of electrified mobility.

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#battery-electric-vehicle, #bmw, #bmw-i, #bmw-i3, #cars, #electric-vehicle

EU fines BMW, VW $1B for running emissions cartel since the 90s

As environmental issues really came of age in the 1990s, certain German automakers were meeting in secret groups to make sure their cars would continue to industriously contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the European Union, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler have been illegally colluding to restrict competition in emission cleaning for new diesel passenger cars, essentially slowing the deployment of cleaner emissions tech. On Thursday, the EU issued fines of $1 billion (€875 million) to Volkswagen and BMW for their involvement in the emissions cartel.

“The five car manufacturers Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche possessed the technology to reduce harmful emissions beyond what was legally required under EU emission standards,” said executive VP of the EU Commission Margrethe Vestager in a statement. “But they avoided to compete on using this technology’s full potential to clean better than what is required by law. So today’s decision is about how legitimate technical cooperation went wrong. And we do not tolerate it when companies collude. It is illegal under EU Antitrust rules. Competition and innovation on managing car pollution are essential for Europe to meet our ambitious Green Deal objectives. And this decision shows that we will not hesitate to take action against all forms of cartel conduct putting in jeopardy this goal.”

All parties acknowledged their involvement and agreed to settle. Volkswagen, which owns Audi and Porsche, will have to pay around $595 million, and BMW will pay $442 million. Daimler would have had to pay around $861 million, but the company is evading fines by being the whistleblower. So we guess Daimler just gets off scot-free?

BMW made a net profit of $4.62 billion last year, and VW made about $12.2 billion and nearly $23 billion in 2019, so this fine sort of feels like a slap on the wrist. And let us remember, this is not the first time VW has gotten into an emissions scandal.

In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to VW for intentionally adding software into its diesel engines to make it look like it was following emissions controls, when in reality its cars were actually producing far more than the legal amount.

In its action against the companies, the EU specifically homed in on the agreement reached by the companies on the sizes of tanks used for AdBlue, a solution that mixes with diesel car exhaust to neutralize harmful pollutants. The companies agreed not to compete on making cars cleaner even though they had the tech to do so.

Der Spiegel first broke the news about the cartel in 2017, and the companies set to work greenwashing. In the same year, all of the involved parties, as well as Ford Motor Company, joined forces to create a high-power charging network for EVs called Ionity. The plan was to build and operate around 400 charging stations across Europe by 2020, but it looks like Ionity only managed to install 300 across Europe, and it even significantly increased the price of a charge by 500% last year.

Earlier this week, VW’s heavy-truck business, the Traton Group, Daimler Truck and Volvo group joined up to invest nearly $593 million in a network of public charging stations for electric heavy-duty long-haul trucks and buses around Europe.

 

 

#audi, #automotive, #bmw, #daimler, #porsche, #transportation, #volkswagen

BMW is finally producing its retro-futuristic CE 04 electric scooter, but at $12K will anyone buy it?

We’ve been hearing about BMW’s electric city scooters, not to be confused with electric kick scooters, for years. The German automaker came out with the BMW Motorrad Concept Link in 2017, a concept vehicle that imagines the future of expensive micromobility. After revealing the latest concept scooter, the CE 04, in November 2020, BMW is now actually going through with production.

On Wednesday, the company announced the new CE 04 will officially be a part of its 2022 lineup, with an expected global market launch of Q1. It’s a sweet-looking ride, with a decidedly retro-futuristic vibe, harkening back to what people in the 70s or 80s might have thought a “futuristic” vehicle would look like.

This is not the first electric scooter BMW has sold. Back in 2014, it came out with the C Evolution, which never really took off in the States. Maybe it was because it was ahead of its time. Maybe it’s because it cost $13,000.

The CE 04 starts at just around $12,000. Now, the whole point of the BMW Motorrad Concept Link is to provide “a vision of what will be important in the urban environment in the future,” so maybe BMW doesn’t care if it doesn’t crush it with sales. But until BMW produces something much cheaper than its gas equivalents (you can buy a new Vespa for under $5,000), the automaker’s new scooter is not guaranteed to take cities by storm.

With a 8.9 kWh battery pack, compared to the Evolution’s 12.7 kWh pack, BMW should be able to produce this vehicle and turn a profit for a lot less than it’s selling it for. Especially given the automaker’s access to higher quality technology and the cheaper price of batteries today when compared to five years ago.

A spokesperson for BMW Motorrad told TechCrunch the CE 04 is priced in the mid-range of the motorcycle market, and is still much less expensive than an electric car.

“This could be an entryway to electric mobility at a fraction of the cost for some people,” he said.

Of course, the fanboys will go for it, like the one BMW fictionalized in a strange press release we’re trying really hard not to make fun of. Here’s a snippet:

“It’s early in the morning. The city is awakening. On the way to my garage I breathe in the still cool air. I’m wear [sic] a casually cut parka that’s both fashionable and functional at the same time. The protectors are inconspicuous but give me a sense of security. I’m ready for the day to start.”

Wait, there’s more:

“The first birds are chirping, the urban jungle is awakening. The sounds of the city begin to swell. Everything is set in motion. People move – with each other and in parallel. Paths cross.

What will the new day bring? Tapas with friends at the little bar by the river? Or the exhibition at the modern art museum? First of all there are appointments at the office. Workshops, meetings, customer visits. This is what life feels like.

I pair my smartphone with the scooter, and with a flick of my wrist I activate the parka. Its LEDs light up. I’m quiet, but I want to be seen. It’s all so simple and smooth.

We’re off again at last. Even when I was having my breakfast, I couldn’t wait. Not even the birds notice me. I glide almost silently through my neighbourhood. I’m a part of the city again.”

One with the city

 

“The new BMW CE 04 is the logical and at the same time rethought continuation of BMW Motorrad’s electromobility strategy,” said Florian Römhild, project manager of the BMW CE 04, in a statement. “Urban areas are its element. This is where it sets a new benchmark – in terms of both technology and visual style.”

For the European and Asian markets, the CE 04 will be marketed as an urban vehicle, but in the U.S., where that category barely exists, the scooter will try to reach the urban commuter.

The CE 04 has a maximum output of 42 horsepower and a maximum speed of 75 miles per hour, meaning it can go on highways, the clogged arteries of America. It can ride for an estimated range of 80 miles and can be charged in under two hours using an at-home level 2 charger or any public charging station. Riders can choose ECO mode, Rain mode or Road mode to make driving efficient, and for those who want to kick it up a notch, there’s the Dynamic mode, part of the Premium package which costs an extra $1,650.

The avant-garde form follows function with the flat battery, which is placed in the middle of the vehicle, for smooth, low rides, as well as design freedom to include a storage compartment for the helmet and charging cable, which can be reached while sitting. The regenerative braking system helps feed energy back into the battery, which is likely to happen a lot if the rider is driving in the city.

As all modern vehicles should have, there’s a 10.25-inch color screen on the handlebars with integrated navigation and connectivity to the rider’s device, and there’s even a USB-C charging port.

The vehicle comes standard in “light white,” but to have the way more badass “Magellan grey metallic avant-garde” coloring, it’ll cost you an upgraded $225. Either way, both come with bright orange accents.

More to come?

“Our CEO said that because it’s an 04, there’s space under and over the 4, so I’d say there’s space for more electrified scooters in our future,” said the spokesperson.

BMW has no other specific models in the works, or timing on when they will be produced, but the CE 04 is part of BMW’s overall plan to have delivered about 2 million full-electric vehicles to customers by 2025 and 10 million by 2030.

“Things are moving so quickly we may see new additions to the CE range within a year or two,” said the spokesperson.

#automotive, #automotive-industry, #bmw, #bmw-ce-04-electric-scooter, #ceo, #energy, #scooter, #smartphone, #tc, #transportation

BMW finds its mojo again with the $55,400 i4 electric sedan

Remember when the BMW 3 Series was the byword for a sporty-slash-luxurious sedan? With an image bolstered by halo cars like the M3, the small BMW four-door was the car to have, particularly if you enjoyed driving. But for the last few years, it has felt like BMW has been missing some of its mojo. The German company built up early expertise in electrification but failed to capitalize on it, ceding a lot of ground to Tesla’s Model 3 electric sedan as BMW instead built a bewildering array of crossovers with ever-larger kidney grilles.

BMW got a new CEO and an order to amp up the electrification effort in 2019, and now the results of that project are right around the corner. Obviously, a lot will depend on how the car drives, but BMW just brought one of its new electric i4s to Washington, DC, and after having a good poke around, I can say that Bavarian Motor Works has its groove back.

My thesis can be boiled down pretty simply: the car looks good, the specs look good, and the price looks good.

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#bmw, #bmw-3-series, #bmw-4-series, #bmw-4-series-gran-coupe, #bmw-i4-edrive40, #cars, #electric-car, #fastback

BMW and Ford-backed Solid Power will go public via SPAC merger in $1.2B deal

Solid Power, a solid-state battery developer backed by Ford and BMW, is going public. The company said Tuesday it would head to the NASDAQ via a merger with special purpose acquisition company Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp III at a post-deal implied market valuation of $1.2 billion.

The transaction is expected to generate around $600 million in cash, including a $165 million private investment in public equity (PIPE) transaction from investors Koch Strategic Platforms, Riverstone Energy Limited, Neuberger Berman and Van Eck Associates Corporation. Solid Power said in a statement Tuesday that the funds will go toward growth and operations.

Solid state batteries are considered by many as the next long-awaited breakthrough in battery technology. They are so named because they lack a liquid electrolyte, the mechanism that moves ions between the cathode and anode in traditional lithium-ion batteries, as Mark Harris explained in an Extra Crunch article earlier this year. By getting rid of this liquid component, developers say SSBs are safer and with far superior energy density. Solid Power said in a June 15 investor presentation that its batteries are expected to deliver a nearly 500-mile range on a single charge and more than double a conventional battery’s 8-year lifespan.

Ford Motor Company and BMW AG have made it clear they’re bullish on Solid Power’s ability to deliver. The two OEMs led the battery developer’s $130 million Series B in May and signed joint development agreements for automotive-scale batteries from Solid Power’s pilot production line to be delivered in early 2022.

The SPAC transaction will likely be completed in the fourth quarter of 2021, Solid Power said. It’s expected to trade on the NYSE under the ticker symbol “SLDP.”

Solid Power is just the latest battery company to go public via a SPAC in recent months. One of its main rivals, Volkswagen-backed QuantumScape, went public via a SPAC merger last September at a valuation of $3.3 billion. Earlier this year, European battery manufacturer FREYR and power system developer Microvast also announced mergers with so-called “blank-check” firms.

#automotive, #bmw, #electric-vehicle-batteries, #ford-motor-company, #solid-power, #solid-state-batteries, #spac, #tc, #transportation

The 2021 BMW M3: When you’re driving it, you don’t have to see its nose

I have a confession to make. Over the past few months of gazing at images in wide-eyed awe and after spending a week with the new sixth-generation M3 in the flesh, I’ve grown accustomed to the look. The front end no longer stuns and confuses me; it’s simply the new M3. While that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for the design, I’d like to think that it offers a semblance of hope: with time, you can see past the face.

More importantly, this new M car is notable for more than just its schnoz—there’s a reason the M3 has long been the benchmark by which all other luxury sports sedans are measured. Decades ago, the M3 helped establish the template for the everyday performance machine with a masterful blend of capability, comfort, and style. The mission remains much the same today, but the stakes are higher than ever.

Starting at $70,895 and coming in at $90,295 as tested, this “base” M3 packs formidable performance cred, dishing out 473 hp (353 kW) and 406 lb-ft (550 Nm) of torque by way of the twin-turbocharged 3.0L S58 inline six-cylinder engine under the hood, and that boosted mill sends the power to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. Spring for the Competition package and output jumps to 503 hp (375 kW) and 479 lb-ft (650 Nm), but it comes with the caveat that it can only be had with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

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#bmw, #bmw-m3, #car-review, #cars

With Android 12, Google will turn your smartphone into a car key

Google is working with BMW and other automakers to develop a digital key that will let car owners lock, unlock and start a vehicle from their Android smartphone, the company announced Tuesday during its 2021 Google I/O developer event.

The digital key is one many new features coming to Android 12, the latest version of the company’s mobile operating system. The digital car keys will become available on select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones later this year, according to Sameer Samat, VP of PM for Android & Google Play. The digital car key will be available in yet unnamed 2022 vehicle models, including ones made by BMW, and some 2021 models.

The digital key uses so-called Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology, a form of radio transmission for which the sensor can tell the direction of the signal, sort of like a tiny radar. This lets the antenna in your phone locate and identify objects equipped with UWB transmitters. By using UWB technology, the Android user will be able to lock and unlock their vehicle without taking their phone out. 

Google Android digital car key

Image Credits: Google

Consumers who own car models that have enabled NFC technology, or near-field communication, will be able unlock their car by tapping their phone against the door. The phone communicates with an NFC reader in the user’s car, which is typically located within the door handle. Google said users will also be able to securely and remotely share their car key with friends and family if they need to borrow the car.

The announcement follows a similar move made by Apple last year that allowed users to add a digital car key to their iPhone or Apple Watch. That feature, which was part of iOS 14, works over NFC and first became available in the 2021 BMW 5 Series.

A growing number of automakers have developed their own apps, which can also control certain functions such as remote locking and unlocking. The big benefit, in Google’s and likely Apple’s view, is that by offering the digital car key in its mobile operating system, users don’t have to download an app.

The intent is for a less clunky experience. And there’s a movement to make it even more seamless. The Car Connectivity Consortium, which Apple, Google, Samsung along with automakers BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen are members of, have spent the past several years creating an underlying agreement to make it easier to work in a seamless way and to standardize a digital key solution.

The development of the digital car key is just part of Google’s push to ensure the smartphone is the centerpiece of consumers’ lives. And it’s a goal that can’t be achieved without including vehicles.

“When purchasing a phone these days, we’re buying not only a phone, but also an entire ecosystem of devices that are all expected to work together — such as TVs, laptops, cars and wearables like smartwatches or fitness tracker, Google’s vp of engineering Erik Kay wrote in a blog post accompanying the announcement during the event. “In North America, the average person now has around eight connected devices, and by 2022, this is predicted to grow to 13 connected devices.”

Google said it is expanding its “fast pair” feature, which lets users pair their devices via Bluetooth with a single tap, to other products, including vehicles. To date, consumers have used “fast pair” more than 36 million times to connect their Android phones with Bluetooth accessories, including Sony, Microsoft, JBL, Philips, Google and many other popular brands, according to Kay.

The feature will be rolled out to more devices in the coming months, including Beats headphones as well as cars from BMW and Ford, Sameer Samat, VP of PM for Android & Google Play said during Google I/O.

 

#android, #android-auto, #apple, #automotive, #bmw, #gm, #google, #google-i-o-2021

Ford, BMW lead Solid Power’s $130M Series B round

A Solid Power manufacturing engineer holds two 20 ampere hour (Ah) all solid-state battery cells for the BMW Group and Ford Motor Company. The 20 ampere hour (Ah) all solid-state battery cells were produced on Solid Power’s Colorado-based pilot production line. Source: Solid Power.

Solid state battery systems have long been considered the next breakthrough in battery technology, with multiple startups vying to be the first to commercialization. Automakers have been some of the top investors in the technology, each of them seeking the edge that will make their electric vehicles safer, faster and with increased range.

Ford Motor Company and BMW Group have put their money on battery technology company Solid Power.

The Louisville, Colorado-based SSB developed said Monday its latest $130 million Series B funding round was led by Ford and BMW, the latest signal that the two OEMs see SSBs powering the future of transportation. Under the investment, Ford and BMW are equal equity owners and company representatives will join Solid Power’s board.

Solid Power received additional investment in the round from Volta Energy Technologies, the venture capital firm spun out of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

Solid state batteries are so named because they lack a liquid electrolyte, as Mark Harris explained in an ExtraCrunch article earlier this year. Liquid electrolyte solutions are usually flammable and at risk of overheating, so SSBs are considered to be generally safer. The real value of SSBs versus their lithium-ion counterparts is the energy density. Solid Power says its batteries can provide as much as a 50% to 100% increase in energy density compared to rechargeable batteries. Theoretically, electric vehicles with more energy dense batteries can travel longer distances on a single charge.

This latest round of investment will help Solid Power boost its manufacturing to produce battery cells with the company’s highest ampere hour (Ah) output yet. Under separate joint development agreements with Ford and BMW, it will deliver to the OEMs 100 Ah cells for testing and vehicle integration from 2022.

Until this point, the company has been manufacturing cells with 2 Ah and 10 Ah output. “Hundreds” of 2 Ah battery cells were validated by Ford and BMW late last year, Solid Power said in a statement. Meanwhile, it is currently producing 20 Ah solid-state batteries on a pilot basis with standard lithium-ion equipment.

As opposed to the 20 Ah pilot-scale cells – which are composed of 22-layers at 9×20 cm – these 100 Ah cells will have a larger footprint and even more layers, Solid Power spokesman Will McKenna told TechCrunch. (‘Layers’ refers to the number of double-sided cathodes, McKenna explained – so the 20 Ah cell has 22 cathodes and 22 anodes, with an all-solid electrolyte separator in-between each, all in a single cell.)

Unlike Solid Power’s manufacturing, traditional lithium-ion batteries must undergo electrolyte filling and cycling in their production processes. Solid Power says these additional steps accounts for 5% and 30% of capital expenditure in a typical GWh-scale lithium-ion facility.

This isn’t the first time Solid Power has landed investments from the automakers. The company’s $20 million Series A in 2018 attracted capital from BMW and Ford, as well as Samsung, Hyundai, Volta and others. It’s part of a new wave of companies that have attracted the attention of OEMs. Other notable examples include Volkswagen-backed QuantumScape and General Motors, which has put its money on SES.

Ford is also independently researching advanced battery technologies and is planning on opening a $185 million R&D battery lab, the company said last week.

#automotive, #bmw, #ford, #solid-state-batteries, #tc, #transportation

BMW and PG&E team up to prepare the electric grid for millions of EVs

BMW Group and California utility Pacific Gas & Electric are rolling out the next phase of a pilot that aims to test — and learn — how electric vehicles could support the integration of renewable energy on the electric grid.

The ChargeForward program, now entering its third phase, is open to PG&E customers who drive a BMW electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Around 3,000 drivers can sign up to voluntarily to allow their vehicle to be “smart charged” when electricity demand is low and renewable energy availability is high. Drivers will earn incentives for participating in the program, including $150 at sign-up and an additional $250 per year.

The program is one of the longest-running partnerships between an electric utility and an automaker. The first two phases had only 100 and 400 participants respectively, so this latest phase presents a marked expansion for the collaboration. It’s a sensible alliance for two industries that are preparing for the gradual decline in sales of internal combustion engines. For electric utilities, this means planning for a drastic increase in customer demand on a grid that is increasingly powered by renewable resources like solar and wind.   

bmw chargeforward electric

Image Credits: BMW

“Let’s assume someone plugs in at home on a Saturday morning at 9am and sets their departure time for 4 pm that day,” Adam Langton, BMW’s Energy Services manager who oversees the ChargeForward program, explained. “The ChargeForward software system communicates with the vehicle and determines that the vehicle is more than half full, needing 2 hours of charging to fill up the battery. The system then evaluates the person’s home electricity rate, renewable energy availability and congestion on the grid in their neighborhood. On this day, there is no congestion on the grid and solar energy will be very high in the afternoon. The ChargeForward system directs the vehicle to start charging at 1 pm and complete charging by 3 pm. This allows the driver to get a full battery prior to their departure time.” 

Electricity demand tends to follow a “duck curve” shape, peaking in the early evening as people return home from work – right as solar energy resources go off line. And people tend to charge their EVs overnight. To meet this demand, fossil fuel-emitting resources like natural gas ramp up.

The result? More greenhouse gas emissions. A study published by MIT researchers in Environmental Science and Technology found that in California overnight EV charging produces around 74% more GHGs than midday charging. (Variations in the grid mix matter here – in wind-heavy regions in the Midwest or Texas, overnight EV charging may make the most sense as lots of wind tends to be generated overnight.)  

The ChargePoint program aims to take advantage of the ample renewable resources available during the day and reduce GHG emissions in the process. Participating customers will enter their charging preferences and departure times on a BMW ChargeForward mobile app. BMW will also receive real-time information about the grid, such as the availability of renewable energy relative to the customer’s location, and it will use this data to calculate an optimal charging window and send it automatically to the vehicle. Customers will be able to opt-out of the charging shift at any point through the app.

While California is known for pursuing ambitious clean energy goals – including codifying into law a landmark target of achieving 100% renewable and zero-carbon electricity by 2045 – the state has also set a goal of getting 5 million EVs on the road by 2030. And that’s no surprise, considering that transportation is the single largest source of GHG emissions in the state. 

BMW and PG&E will also collaborate in a lab setting to explore vehicle-to-grid technologies that enable EVs to discharge electricity to the power grid. Such bi-directional functionality could allow EVs to be used as big backup generators in the case of emergencies or as distributed nano power plants to help balance the grid throughout the day.

The third phase of the ChargeForward program begins in mid-April and runs through March 2023. 

#automotive, #bmw, #bmw-group, #electric-vehicles, #pge, #transportation

MaaS transit: The business of mobility as a service

In 2019, St. Louis Metro Transit was struggling to keep customers. Uber and Lyft, along with dockless shared bikes and scooters, had flooded streets, causing ridership to fall more than 7% in a single year.

The agency didn’t try to fight for attention. Instead, it embraced its competitors.

Metro Transit dropped its internal trip-planning app, which had been developed with the Trapeze Group and directed riders to Transit, a private third-party app that offers mapping and real-time transit data in more than 200 cities. That app also included micromobility and ride-hailing information, allowing customers to not just look up bus schedules, but see how they might get to and from stops — or ignore the bus altogether.

The following year, Metro Transit partnered with mobile ticketing company Masabi and added a payment option on some bus routes. Now, the agency is planning an all-in-one app — via third-party providers Transit and Masabi — where customers could plan and book end-to-end trips across trains, buses, bikes, scooters and taxis.

“What we do best is transporting large volumes of people on vehicles and managing mass transit,” said Metro Transit executive director Jessica Mefford-Miller. “On the software side, there are a lot of players out there doing great stuff that can help us meet our customers where they are and make trip planning as easy as possible.”

St. Louis Metro Transit isn’t an outlier. As transit agencies seek to win back riders, a flurry of platforms — some backed by giants like Uber, Intel and BMW — are offering new technology partnerships. Whether it’s bundling bookings, payments or just trip planning, startups are selling these mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) offerings as a lifeline to make transit agencies the backbone of urban mobility.

Whether it’s bundling bookings, payments or just trip planning, startups are selling mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) offerings as a lifeline to make transit agencies the backbone of urban mobility.

Third-party platforms have become more appealing to transit agencies as they scramble to keep buses, trains and rail full of customers. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), ridership and total miles traveled has declined since 2014, including a 2.5% drop from 2017 to 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic could accelerate this trend as more people continue working from home or shy away from crowding into buses and trains.

“This is like Expedia, the idea of seeing multiple airlines in one place to comparison shop,” said Regina Clewlow, CEO of transportation management firm Populus. “A lot of operators are looking at the question of whether that would give them more rides.”

But that the private growth could come at a cost, potentially injecting private concerns into what should be a public good, Metro Transit’s Mefford-Miller cautioned.

“If we let the market handle this planning on its own, a company might only do it for someone with a digital device or a bank account or only help people who don’t need special accommodation,” Mefford-Miller said. “That’s why we have as an underpinning an equitable and accessible system. It’s the underpinning before we choose any tools we use.”

The players

Amid the swarm of new startups there are a few giants. One of the biggest established players is Cubic Corp., a San Diego-based defense and public transportation company. The firm already controls payments and back-end software for hundreds of transit agencies, including in Chicago, New York and San Francisco, and in January launched a suite of new products under the brand name Umo to expand their offerings.

The package includes a customer-facing multimodal app, a fare collection platform, a contactless payment system, a rewards program, a behind-the-scenes management platform and a MaaS marketplace for public and private offerings. Mick Spiers, general manager of Umo, said the goal is to offer a “connected, integrated journey.”

“We’re uniquely placed as an independent, trusted third party that can be the data broker for a journey focused around the needs of the user,” Spiers added. “The journey we create has no commercial interest for us.”

#automotive, #bmw, #ec-market-map, #ec-mobility-software, #maas, #masabi, #moovit, #public-transportation, #saas, #startups, #transportation, #uber, #venture-capital

BMW takes the wraps off the i4, its first all-electric sedan

BMW plans to have 25 electrified cars in its lineup by 2025 and it’s taking a few more steps in this direction this year with the launch of the all-electric iX SUV and the i4 sedan. Today, for the first time, the German automaker shared a few more details of what we can expect from the i4, its first fully-electric sedan, in addition to sharing the first exterior shots of the new model.

At the top end, the i4 will have a power output of 390kW / 530HP. Going from zero to 100km/h will take four seconds.

BMW promises up to a 300 miles range, according to its own preliminary tests based on the EPA’s test procedures. Enough to go from L.A. to Las Vegas. That’s the same range as the iX will be able to cover on a single charge and a slight increase in horsepower compared to BMW’s new SUV. And while that range is less than what Tesla and some other competitors can offer, it’s still more than what’s possible with comparable all-electric Porsche and Audi models like the eTaycan and e-tron GT, which are in the lower 200s.

Image Credits: BMW

“With its sporty looks, best in class driving dynamics and zero local emissions, the BMW i4 is a true BMW. It makes the heart of the BMW brand now beat fully electric,” said Pieter Nota, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Customer, Brands, Sales.

For now, we don’t have any pricing details or additional specs for the i4. It will become available later this year, so we’ll likely see more details in the summer.

“The iX is purpose-built, it’s spectacular and it’s a completely new BMW X product,” Frank Weber, BMW’s head of development, said at a press event earlier this week. “But what people are longing for is to see that we have a sport sedan that is fully electric. […] And the i4 has everything it takes to have a real sporty sedan from BMW that is fully electric.”

And indeed, unlike the somewhat quirky i3, BMW’s first all-electric car, the i4 is a standard, four-door sedan (with real passenger doors, unlike the i3) — something that buyers in the market for a sporty yet roomy electric car from BMW in the spirit of the existing 4-series will likely appreciate.

Earlier this week, BMW also announced version 8 of its iDrive operating system, which will feature a new dashboard layout and visual design, with two curved screens. It will make its debut in the i4 and iX.

#automotive, #bmw, #bmw-i, #cars, #environmental-protection-agency, #i3, #idrive, #las-vegas, #operating-system, #porsche, #sedans, #tc, #tesla

BMW’s big electric car push: Selling 2 million new EVs by 2025

A BMW iX being built at its factory

Enlarge / A BMW iX rolls down the production line at Dingolfing, Germany. (credit: BMW)

With annual report season in full swing, it was BMW’s turn on Wednesday to take the microphone and tell us about its electric vehicle plans for the next few years. The German automaker was an early leader in terms of electrification, producing innovative cars under the “i” subbrand and selling a lot of plug-in hybrids to boot. But it fell behind rivals in the development of longer-range battery EVs, which is one reason why then-CEO Harald Krugër stepped down in 2019 just weeks after announcing plans to amp up the electrification effort.

He was succeeded by current CEO Oliver Zipse, who is now pushing the accelerator pedal. BMW’s plug-in sales were strong in 2020 despite the obvious challenges, increasing sales to 193,000 units. For 2021, Zipse wants this number to grow by 75 percent. If the company succeeds, it will have sold a million plug-in vehicles since 2013. BMW says it will have 13 BEVs on sale in 2023, from compact cars to the biggest, most luxurious cars to wear the blue-and-white propeller. And by the end of 2025, the plan is for BMW to have delivered a total of 2 million plug-ins to customers.

This is the new BMW i4

BMW also showed off a little of its next production BEV, a four-door sedan called the i4. It adheres closely to the Concept i4 we saw this time last year, although it’s a little less concept-y, obviously. BMW said it will release full details about the i4 in the coming weeks, but it did say the car “will enter the market during the course of 2021,” three months ahead of schedule, and that one version should have an EPA range of 300 miles (590 km under WLTP).

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#bmw, #bmw-i4, #bmw-ix, #cars, #electric-vehicles

BMW debuts the next generation of its iDrive operating system

For modern cars, the standalone, photo frame-like display in the center of the dashboard has become something of a default. But with its next-generation iDrive 8 system, BMW is moving away from this design language by introducing what it calls the “BMW Curved Display,” which takes this idea to the next level by expanding that center display all the way through the cockpit. It’s actually still two screens, the 12.3-inch information display and 14.9-inch control display, but it looks like a single curved display that BMW describes as giving an “appearance of almost floating.”

The new curved display with the new iDrive 8 system will debut in the upcoming all-electric iX and i4, which should arrive later this year.

While the company isn’t sharing any details about the underlying technology stack just yet, BMW is willing to say that its new stack is able to process 20 to 30 times more data than the previous system. The company plans to share more details about the stack after July, Frank Weber, BMW’s head of development, told me during a press roundtable earlier today.

Image Credits: BMW

The company provided a first glimpse of the new layout when it announced the iX last November, but at the time, it didn’t provide any details about the new iDrive system. At the core of it is, unsurprisingly, a wholesale redesign of the user interface. Drivers will be able to choose between different layouts, for example. There’s a standard “Drive” layout for example, which will feature “a dynamically changing area in the center of the information display to show individually selectable information.” There’s also a “focus” mode for “dynamic driving situations,” a “gallery” layout that minimizes driving info in favor of other widgets from apps like your media source and, for when you just want to drive and be left in peace, a “calm” mode that only shows your vehicle speed in the center of the information display, and virtually nothing else.

Image Credits: BMW

There also are three different driving modes: efficient, sport and personal, which allows you to change some of the core driving experience settings like engine throttle, steering characteristics and chassis settings, as well as the audio characteristics of the car.

For maps, which are probably still the most-often used app in any car, there are also three different modes (adaptive, reduced and expanded), all going back to the central idea that the drivers should be able to decide how much information they want to see.

That’s a lot of personalization options and Weber acknowledged as much, but he also argues that the company has made them easy to use so that they don’t overwhelm the driver — and that a lot of drivers really want this functionality.

“When you test our system in China, you cannot do enough for personalization, they almost want to personalize everything,” Weber explained. “And then there are other people who say: I just want to drive my vehicle, I don’t want to see any of that. Therefore, what we did is, we have included a ‘My Mode’ function — a very simple surface in the vehicle. When you push My Mode, you find Sport and you find Efficiency and you find Personal here. And there, it is very easy to almost say ‘Do I want something that is very reduced? Or do I want something that has all the possibilities of personalization?’ There are very artful things that we have included in here. And there are very simple choices.”

Image Credits: BMW

And talking about personalization, with the BMW ID, the company now offers a new system for saving those personalized settings on your smartphone and the new My BMW app.

With this update, BMW is also launching the next generation of its BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, which made its debut at TechCrunch Disrupt a few years ago. Built on top of Microsoft’s Azure Cognitive Services, the improved in-car assistant will get better at interacting with drivers through a more natural dialog, but in addition to voice interactions, BMW is now also adding more visual components and integrating the assistant with its gesture recognition capabilities. We’ll have to see this in action to see how this works in practice. So far, BMW hasn’t shared a lot of details about these features.

Image Credits: BMW

“In communication between people, a great deal of information is conveyed non-verbally,” the company explains. “The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant has thus been upgraded with a greater focus on how it is presented visually. This new visualization approach features spheres of light in differing sizes and brightness levels, giving the assistant more space and new ways of expressing itself. This visual image also gives it a “face” with a clearly visible point of focus and identifiable states of activity.”

Like with the iDrive 7 system, this new operation system will also support remote software upgrades, either over the air thanks to the car’s built-in SIM card and cell connectivity (up to 5G for the iX) or through the My BMW app.

As for current cars with the iDrive 7, Weber noted that those cars will get some of the features from iDrive 8 that can be ported back to it — and iDrive 7 will continue to get updates as well.

Image Credits: BMW

“It’s a little bit like in the smartphone world,” Weber said. “All the things — and the good and interesting new things from iD8 that can be transferred to iD7, iD7 we’ll get those upgrades. But like a particular function on a phone, not all of them can be transferred back to the previous generation. So most of it can be transferred, but not all of them. But certainly, we will continue to work on updating the previous generation. We won’t stop that.”

As a side note, Weber also addressed the current chip shortage that has led some car manufacturers to slow down production. He noted that since about Christmas, BMW is “fighting for every single production day” but hasn’t lost a single production day yet. He wasn’t willing to make any forecasts, but noted that the company has started to develop alternative solutions on the engineering side. “So far, we are really able and capable of adjusting our pipeline, so that we didn’t have to stop any production at this point,” he said.

 

#assistant, #automotive, #bmw, #cars, #idrive, #in-car-entertainment, #smartphone, #tc

Eying sustainability gains for its supply chain, BMW backs Boston Metal’s CO2-free iron production tech

BMW has joined the cohort of investors that are backing Boston Metal’s carbon dioxide-free production technology for steel.

The Boston-based startup had targeted a $50 million raise earlier in the year, as TechCrunch reported, and BMW’s addition closes out that round, according to a person familiar with the company.

Through a commitment from BMW iVentures, the automaker’s investment arm, Boston Metal will have an in to a company with massive demands for more sustainably manufactured metal. For instance, BMW Group press plants in Europe process more than half a million tonnes of steel per year, the company said.

“We systematically identify the raw materials and components in our supplier network with the highest CO2 emissions from production,” said Dr Andreas Wendt, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Purchasing and Supplier Network, in a statement. “Steel is one of them, but it is vital to car production. For this reason, we have set ourselves the goal of continuously reducing CO2 emissions in the steel supply chain. By 2030, CO2 emissions should be about two million tonnes lower than today’s figure.”

Conventional steel production requires blast furnaces that generate carbon dioxide emissions, but using Boston Metal’s process, an electrolysis cell produces the pig iron that gets processed into steel, the company said.

The addition of BMW to its investor group, which already includes Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and other strategic and financial investors, caps the fundraising process with another corporate partner wielding incredible industry influence.

“Our investors span across the steel value chain, from the upstream mining and iron ore companies to the downstream end customer, and validate Boston Metal’s innovative process to produce high-quality steel, cost-competitively, and at scale,” said chief executive officer and founder, Tadeu Carneiro.

#automotive-industry, #bmw, #boston, #carbon-dioxide, #cars, #chief-executive-officer, #europe, #investor, #metal, #steel, #tc